My name is Michael Budd and I’m a Blacksmith and a Sculptor. Through the courses that I teach in forge work, I’ve noticed that although I’m a sole trader and with no employees, my courses have a knock-on effect in my community. About 50% of my students now come from outside of Ireland, of the remainder, the vast majority are usually from outside of Co. Sligo. This means that almost all of my students need to eat and sleep somewhere, most make a holiday of it and stay around for much longer than just the days they are in the forge with me.
That got me thinking, I’m just one artist doing this and I know of many more artists whose courses don’t even register on the map of things to do when it comes to tourism- promotion in general. In 2013 I was invited to Forge 300 in Cape Breton, Canada. This was a large blacksmith event held in Fortress Louisburg and I was invited as one of the master blacksmiths giving demonstrations. While there, I noticed that craft and art were a major part of the tourism strategy. As one of the friends I made over in Canada said, “People don’t just come on holiday to eat, drink and sleep in a different location, they want to experience new things, try their hands at something new. Art and Craft is perfect for that”. I only had a short amount of time in Cape Breton and did not have chance to explore this in depth but I was very impressed with what I saw.
This year I have been invited back to Cape Breton for CanIRON 2015, in part to promote my courses and the hammers I make (mostly for other smiths). The event is shaping up to be the greatest blacksmithing event of the past twenty years, with luminaries of the artistic metal world like Uri Hofi and Albert Paley. Additionally, one of the organisers is also a guiding light in the craft tourism movement in Cape Breton. He has offered to give me a more in-depth look at how it works for them and the wider benefits to their communities. I want to use this valuable information and firsthand experience to initially help build a similar movement here in Sligo, but with the hope that other regions can use it as a model to promote local craft and art tourism.
This is where you come in, all I need to do is raise the cost of travel and if you decide to help me not only will you be helping me to further my own artistic practice. You will also be helping to set up a system that could benefit many artists and craft people to make money out of their creative business.